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16Sep

Moving might be commonplace, but the average person doesn’t actually do it very often! It’s surprisingly easy for sellers to get in the way of selling their own home, so here are 10 top tips to keep you on track:

1. First things first; do you really want to sell your home? If you’re putting obstacles in the way of selling, you may have a case of sellers-remorse. Be sure you want to move and then be fully committed – only being 50% sure will absolutely hinder your sale. 

2. Overpricing your property is likely to dampen your chances of selling. If you insist on selling your home at the wrong price you may be your own worst enemy. Speak with your agent and agree a realistic figure based on the market, location, condition and so on.



Find out how to spot an overpriced home

3. Clean up! No one wants to view a dirty home – don’t let traipsed-in mud, excessive dust or cobwebs stand in the way of a good viewing!

4. Fix it! If the tap is leaking, call the plumber. Small repairs could stand in the way of a great viewing when they don’t need to. If your agent mentions something needs replacing or updating, listen to them – they know what they’re talking about.



5. You love your pets, but it doesn’t take much to become ‘nose-blind’. Don’t let smells put potential viewers off. Your agent can help by being the objective third party here and give you an honest opinion; if you aren’t sure, ask.


Find our what devalues your home

6. Present your home in the best possible light. Imagine your interior as a shop window and present your space appealingly. It can be hard for buyers to imagine the decor differently, so make it as versatile as possible. Painting over a lime green wall with a more neutral colour could be worthwhile, and decluttering will dilute your personality and create more of a blank canvas.



7. Make sure the interior and the exterior match; presenting your home doesn’t just mean your rooms. Potential buyers should be able to take pride in the exterior of the property and, if there is a garden, look forward to enjoying the outside space with friends and family.


How to give your home more kerb appeal

8. Leave the viewing to your estate agent. You know your home inside out, but being present at viewings, or insisting on doing them yourself, can be off-putting. The things you consider important could be utterly irrelevant to, or even hated by, your house-hunter; not everyone loves a serving hatch or a dumb waiter! Your estate agent’s skills come into their own here – let them make your property shine. They understand what the buyer is looking for and can sell your home in the best way.

9. Make your home available. You should never assume that someone will come back if you prevent a viewing. There are plenty of house-hunters who will not try to rearrange or they may find another house they like in the meantime, and all because you haven’t given the bathroom a quick clean in time. Order your priorities so that you are as close to viewing-ready as possible whenever you need to be. 


10. Keep the momentum. If you’ve had a few viewings and no luck, your enthusiasm is likely to wane. Vendors love their homes and when others aren’t feeling the same love it can be disheartening. Remember, it only takes one buyer! Maintain your presentation and tidiness because it will be worth it in the end.

12Sep


People are always told not to judge a book by its cover, but with property, first impressions are extremely important. Use these top tips to give your property serious kerb appeal:

1.    The approach

No one wants to stumble through a gate falling off its hinges, unless you are selling a ‘project’. If you are replacing it, choose a suitable gate for your property; does wood or wrought iron work best, for example. If you’re painting your current gate, the aim is to be appealing but in keeping. Think neutral colours for a fresh, palatable look.



Tidy the path up, by removing any weeds and cleaning the edges. Trim the grass or plants neatly or sweeping the stones off the path. Make a manicured ‘yellow brick road’ to your front door.



2.    A touch of green

Many people love quirky, off-beat looks, but consider giving your front door some symmetry with a matching set of shrubs or hanging baskets. It can create a clean, precise look and be pleasing to the eye.




Alternatively, layer some plants around your porch to give depth and definition. Having a selection of plants in various pots gives a ‘garden’ feel, while keeping the look casual and contemporary. It will also give a low-maintenance and achievable feel.



Remember even the most polished, modern homes will be softened by some greenery, breaking the aspect up.

3.    The front door
Take a closer look at your door fittings and be objective. If you don’t want to press your finger into the mouldy-looking ringer, no one else is likely to! Choose something in keeping with your home.. Think about whether a knocker or a door bell is more in-keeping and a nice clean handle is a good starting point.



Also, take a look at the door itself. Start by giving it a good clean and remove dust and cobwebs which have built up. You could also give it a new lease of life with a fresh, colour. Avoid neon pinks, but you can be bolder than you think and give your property some character.

When it comes to the welcome mat, opt for something simple and welcoming. A personalised mat may put people off when trying to imagine your property as their home.

4.    General tidy up

There is no need to have your children’s summer toys strewn all over the garden or piled in the sandpit, collect them and store them away. Your potential buyers may not have children, which could make the toys extremely off-putting.



Remove weeds in any plant beds, mow the lawn and tidy the edges up. Even if you aren’t into gardening, there is no need for it to look messy. 

Don’t forget to take a good look at your windows – they should be clean and streak-free, just in case your viewers choose to peek inside. 

5.    Guttering

General tidying up is one thing, but the guttering needs your attention. Get your rubber gloves out or call someone who can help you; you should replace it if absolutely necessary. It’s something we often put off, but a gutter full of leaves and black muck will be one of the first things people notice. If you have gone to the effort of cleaning the rest of the house, the guttering should match.




    Like this post? Read more on this topic here.


6.    Artwork, sculptures or water features

Give your home some personality with a sculpture or water feature. It doesn’t need to be pretentious or twee, a simple waterfall could work and would make a lovely sound. Be wary of families with small children and don't go for anything too deep. Gnomes tend to stir strong feelings in most, so maybe choose something different!



7.    Lighting
There will undoubtedly be some viewers who do a late night ‘drive-by’. Light your property with affection – give it a homely glow that looks inviting on a winter’s evening. There’s no need for neon uplighters which upset everyone on the street. Instead, some subtle solar lights along the path, or well-chosen lamps by your front door will look lovely.



8.    Don’t forget the garage
If your garage and its door is visible when approaching your house, it is definitely part of your kerb appeal. Again, give the door a good clean to freshen it up – although you should get the paint brush out if you need to. Plants are another way to style and hide the garage a little, making if feel like part of your home rather than an ugly, forgotten extension.



9.    Hide your rubbish

Following a thorough spring clean, you’re likely to have lots of rubbish – don’t leave it out in piles for people to see! Think ahead and clean and declutter before any visits and in time for bin collection day. Of course you can’t predict when you may have a viewing, but you should be prepared to let people in whenever.




10.    The pavement
The street outside your home may not be your responsibility, but it is part of the viewing experience. You can’t possibly control it all, but there are some things you can do. If you live on a leafy street, sweep away the dead leaves. If your neighbour’s bins are strewn all over the path, straighten them up. The little details might just help.



Find out how much your home is worth here!

07Sep

The recent cut in the Bank of England base rate may have come as welcome news for many mortgage holders, but for savers it has been yet another hit on their returns.

There is light at the end of the tunnel however. At times when homeowners are struggling to make their savings work for them, offset mortgages offer an excellent alternative, and can also be big money-savers.

This type of mortgage works by allowing homeowners to ‘offset’ the balances held in their savings and current accounts against the mortgage debt, thereby reducing the amount of interest payable on the mortgage. Put simply, instead of earning interest on their savings, a borrower pays less interest on the mortgage.

There are a number of other attractive benefits to offsetting. Because no interest is earned on the savings, there is also no tax to pay, so this can be particularly useful for higher rate taxpayers.


   
        Like this post? Read more on this topic here.

There is also a greater degree of flexibility than can be found with many traditional mortgages. Most deals provide an overpayment facility, but this is often restricted to 10% of the mortgage balance per year. Offset mortgages generally provide an unlimited overpayment facility and, perhaps more importantly, borrowers retain easy access to their savings at all times. 

This type of mortgage can be especially effective for homeowners with variable sources of income. The self-employed, for example, might use their offset account to put money aside over the course of the year to pay their tax bill, so having that easy access is essential.

Lenders generally offer two options depending on how the borrower wants their mortgage to work. They can choose to reduce their monthly payments as a result of the reduced interest charge, if cutting costs is a priority.

Many opt to keep their payments as they are however, in order to reduce the overall term of the mortgage. This means making savings on the overall amount of interest paid and clearing the debt much quicker.

The interest rates available for offset mortgages are higher than for traditional mortgages, so borrowers will need to do their sums before deciding if this is a worthwhile option for them. However, with interest rates currently at record-lows, and savings accounts offering little in the way of returns, now may be the time for borrowers to consider using their money in a different way, and ultimately for their own benefit.





If you are considering an offset mortgage or simply need mortgage advice, then please speak to the Guild Mortgage Service provided by fee free L&C Mortgages.

You can contact L&C mortgages on: 0800 073 1945



06Sep

Economic News August 2016


On the 4th of August, the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee unanimously agreed to cut the base interest rate to 0.25 per cent from its already record low level of 0.5 per cent, where it had remained since March 2009. The aim of the cut is to encourage households and businesses to borrow more and to encourage banks to create more money for loans and thereby keep money flowing into the economy. However, as rates are so low, the effect may be limited. 

As the cut was announced, some major mortgage lenders, including HSBC, Santander and Nationwide agreed to pass on the cut. However, Tesco Bank raised rates on a dozen tracker loans for new customers and the Halifax has followed suit, increasing the interest rate on two-year trackers offered to borrowers with small deposits to 2.04 per cent.

At the same time as cutting the base rate, the Bank of England announced further measures to stimulate the economy, which included a new round of quantitative easing to the tune of £60 billion, as well as buying up to £10 billion of UK corporate bonds. It also set up a new £100 billion Funding for Lending-style scheme. The Bank stated that there was still scope to cut the interest rate further if the economy worsens.

The Bank’s quarterly inflation report, delivered alongside the rate decision, downgraded Britain’s future growth forecasts but maintained the 2 per cent forecast for 2016 following a better-than-expected 0.6 per cent GDP growth in the three months up to June, up from 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of the year. A further positive note was sounded when the Office for National Statistics reported that UK industrial output grew at the fastest rate for 17 years in the April to June quarter. The figures were 2.1 per cent up on the first quarter of the year.

Mixed views are being reported on the state of the housing market. According to a survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the UK housing market is continuing to slow in the wake of the Brexit vote, with a significant slowdown in price rises in the three months to the end of July. The Halifax said house prices fell by 1.0 per cent in July compared to June but the Nationwide said prices rose by 0.5 per cent. On an annual basis, the Halifax said house prices had increased by 8.4 per cent, while the Nationwide said annual house price inflation was 5.2 per cent. However, the latest House Price Index published by the Office for National Statistics affirms that UK house prices in June had increased by one per cent over May and by 8.7 per cent over the previous year; the official July figures will be released in September.

The Office for National Statistics reported that UK construction output fell in June but stated that there was ‘little anecdotal evidence’ of a Brexit impact. This contrasts with the Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index, which suggests output in July shrank at its fastest since June 2009. 

New inflation figures were released in mid-August. The Consumer Prices Index rose from 0.5 per cent in June to 0.6 per cent in July. The main reason cited was an increase in fuel prices, which are priced in dollars and thus affected by the fall in the value of sterling. The Retail Prices Index measure of inflation also increased from 1.6 per cent in June to 1.9 per cent in July.

06Sep

UK HOUSE PRICE INDEX: June 2016 (released 16 August 2016)

The June 2016 house price index data for the UK showed a monthly rise of 1.0 per cent across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while in England the increase was slightly lower at 0.8 per cent. In London the monthly change was 0.2 per cent but it was the South East region that experienced the highest monthly growth with a rise of 1.5 per cent. The West Midlands and the North East each saw the most significant monthly price fall with a movement of minus 0.2 per cent.  

On an annual basis the price change across the UK was 8.7 per cent, bringing the average house price to £213,927. In England the annual price increase was a little higher at 9.3 per cent and the average house price £229,383. London experienced a rise of 12.6 per cent making the price of an average London home £472,204. However, it was the East of England that saw the greatest increase over the year with a rise of 14.3 per cent, while the North East saw the lowest annual price growth at just 1.5 per cent. In terms of property type, flats and maisonettes once again saw the greatest annual increase in prices both across the UK as a whole at 9.8 per cent and in England at 10.6 per cent.   

Detailed statistics for local authority areas continue to show a wide variation but ten areas saw a fall in prices over the year, notably Hammersmith & Fulham and South Lakeland at minus 3.2 per cent. The highest annual rise was seen in Slough at 24.6 percent, while Stevenage, Croydon, Luton, Newham and Waltham Forest also saw increases of 20 per cent or more.

Sales volumes for England in April 2016 totalled 42,938 compared to 102,597 in March. April sales were also 33.4 per cent down compared to a year ago when 64,467 completed house sales were made.

Statistics relating to building status showed that the average price of a new build property in England in June was £268,703, down 4.6 per cent on May but up 9.2 per cent on a year ago. The average price of a resold property was £227,377, a rise of 1.6 per cent over May and 9.6 per cent higher than 12 months ago.

Statistics on buyer status in England showed that the average price of a house sold to a first time buyer was £192,987 and to a former owner occupier £259,780. Prices to first time buyers increased by 0.6 per cent over May, while re-purchasers saw an increase of one per cent. Over the year, prices for both first time buyers and former owner occupiers increased by 9.3 per cent.

The latest figures on funding status, which compare average cash and mortgage prices, show that in England the average cash price was £215,534 and the average mortgage price was £236,363. The monthly change for cash buyers was an increase of one per cent, while mortgage purchase prices rose by 0.8 per cent. However, the annual change for cash purchases was 8.7 per cent, while for mortgage purchases it was rather higher at 9.6 per cent.

06Sep

The seven-year itch

Both Coventry Building Society and Barclays Bank have announced the launch of some highly-competitive 7-year fixed rates.

These deals not only offer longer term security for borrowers, but have been priced to match the cost of some of the best 5-year fixed rates currently on the market. 

Deciding how long to fix your mortgage for is not an easy decision, and for some, locking in to a deal for 10 years may seem too long. These new offerings will provide a useful alternative for homeowners.

The recent vote to leave the EU has resulted in a degree of uncertainty, and this combined with falling funding costs could mean that now is the perfect time for borrowers to grab some peace of mind for the medium to long term.

These deals do carry Early Repayment Charges throughout the fixed period, so it’s important to be mindful of any potential changes in circumstances over the next few years.

Fixing for this length of time will not suit everyone, but for some a seven year deal will provide peace of mind for the future, and being able to do so at record-low rates is an added bonus.

06Sep

Leeds Building Society improves its Buy-to-Let criteria 


Leeds Building Society has introduced a greater degree of flexibility into its criteria, by announcing that it will no longer impose a maximum tenancy period for Buy-to-Let mortgages.

Criteria regarding tenancy agreements has improved throughout the market in recent years. 

Rather than insisting on a maximum of just 6 to 12 months, most lenders now allowing tenancies of 2, and in some case 3 years. 

Very few currently go beyond this however, so the move by Leeds has been welcomed by many.

With people renting for longer, and an increase in the number of families with children living in the rental sector, there is a definite need for more security of tenure. 

Leeds has now opted to accept agreements for a time period which is suitable for both landlord and tenant. 

This will provide more choice for those who would prefer to have a longer agreement in place and offer a greater level of security for both parties.

06Sep

Fixed or variable?


Falling funding costs and a recent cut in the Bank of England Base Rate means that the choice of mortgage deal is as good as it’s ever been for borrowers.  

Fixed rates are currently at record lows, so now is the perfect time to protect your mortgage payments for the foreseeable future by locking in to one of today’s highly competitive rates. 

With talk of another cut in the base rate later this year, some borrowers will be attracted to variable rates, such as trackers or discounts, and the chance to make savings now. Many of these deals also come with no Early Repayment Charges, so the flexibility on offer can prove useful.

It is worth noting however that, since the base rate cut, some lenders have already increased the margins on their tracker mortgages, and others are likely to follow suit. 

It is also worth checking the small print, as some tracker deals contain a collar, which would prevent it from dropping any further.

The choice of mortgage comes down of course to personal preference, but it’s important to consider how much room you have in your budget to cope with rising payments.

Anyone concerned about the prospect of an increase should look to fix now and take advantage of some rock-bottom rates.

06Sep

Bank of England cuts base rate


Last week saw the Bank of England cut Base Rate for the first time in over 7 years, to a historic low of just 0.25%.

The move follows months of speculation, and mortgage-holders will now be keen to find out what it means for them financially.

Most borrowers with an existing tracker mortgage linked to the base rate should see the full 0.25% cut passed on to them, and a drop in their monthly payments as a result. 

It is worth checking the small print however, as some lenders have applied a ‘collar’ which would prevent the payable rate from falling below a certain level.

Homeowners currently on a Standard Variable Rate may have to wait a little longer to see what their lender will do, and there are no guarantees that the full cut will be passed on.  

Many will be tempted to wait and see what their lender will do over the coming weeks. Rather than settling for a small drop in their rate however, it makes sense to review the market and find out what other options are available. 

There are much lower rates to be found and the savings will be far more significant.

02Sep

As Poldark returns to our screens on 4th September, the beauty of the Cornwall and its exquisite coastline is once again in the spotlight. There are plenty of remarkable homes hidden in the Cornish hills, here are ten of our favourites.


Blisland, Bodmin. £745,000
You can explore Poldark country until your heart is content in Blisland. Just a few miles from St Breward, the filming location for Poldark’s home, is this six-bedroom country farmhouse.

Positioned in 3.2 acres of land, this property is currently used as a guest house with fantastic ratings. There is also a fine range of stables and workshops with the property – there is so much opportunity with this Victorian house dating back to 1890.



Restronguet Weir, Mylor. £1,750,000

The property has been aptly named Sunrising as its coastal setting on Restronguet Weir is picture-perfect. After ambling down a quiet country lane surrounded by fields, this four-bedroom family home can be found perched right by the sea. The property makes the absolute most of its spectacular view of the Fal estuary, especially in the main, open-plan living space which is characterised by the atmospheric blue view.

The low maintenance patio area is idyllic for indulging in the panoramic view. If you want to get a little closer to the water, the boathouse, slipway and quay make a voyage as easy as possible with all the private facilities literally on your doorstep.



Church Street, Helston. £139,950


This former Church Hall is packed with character. The property has an open plan lounge/kitchen/dining area which makes the most of its high vaulted ceilings. The kitchen has a contemporary, industrial feel thanks to the pan rack suspended in this light airy space. The wood burning stove is perfect for weathering stormy nights, while the low maintenance, enclosed garden is ideal for a dining alfresco in the warm Cornish summer months.

From here, a 15-minute drive will take you to Gunwalloe Church Cove where the Poldark shipwreck scenes were filmed. It is next to the Dollar Cove, named after local tales of a Portuguese treasure ship sinking offshore in 1526, and in 1783 a ship carrying silver dollars was also wrecked nearby. A fantastic story and the perfect reason to go exploring.




Albert Quay, Fowey. £1,500,000

Fowey, a charming seaside town in south Cornwall, is surrounded by miles of coast and countryside, much of which is in the ownership of the National Trust. This impressive four-bedroom home is spread over three floors showcasing its location – the living space is particularly special as it frames the view. The private balconies are perfect for enjoying a glass of wine (after watching Poldark, of course). This property boasts direct access to the water via galvanised steps and a running mooring under licence, which is ideal in this natural harbour that provides some of the best sailing waters in the country.





Downderry. £1,000,000


Tropical Cornwall is on show in this private beachside residence. Set within 2 acres of sub-tropical gardens with a panorama over the coastline of Whitsand & Looe Bay, this property has a very special location. Rame Head, the Eddystone Lighthouse are on the horizon and Looe Island is in the west. The balcony and extensive level terraces adjacent to the property provide ample space for entertaining and alfresco dining.

Between the seaside villages of Downderry and Seaton, this property sits atop the hillside, just a short walk from the long sandy beaches it gazes over. The mix of rock pools and sand make this beach a fantastic place for children to explore.





Gerrans, Portscatho. £975,000


The Rectory is a beautiful Grade II listed property believed to have been built in the late 19th century. This four-bedroom home in has views across Gerrans Bay to Gull Rock, Nare Head and beyond. Sold by the Diocese of Truro in 2013, in a state of complete disrepair, the property has since been lovingly renovated from the ground up.

The kitchen is a lovely space with limestone floors and LED down-lighters that really help to showcase the light from the large south-facing bay, wooden, sash windows. But if you want to indulge in the coast, the Portscatho beach is isn’t far.




      Liked this post? Discover more properties here.

Engollan, near Padstow. £425,000

The Burgeys is a semi-detached period cottage built of traditional Cornish stone with a natural slate roof, sitting in gardens of approximately one quarter of an acre. The stone fireplace is a beautiful feature.

This property has been successfully holiday let providing a substantial income for a number of years and is ideally located. Engollan is a picturesque rural hamlet about 2 miles of Porthcothan Bay – the filming location for Poldark’s Napara Cove. The historic harbour town of Padstow is within roughly 6 miles.



Great Pinnock, Fowey. £450,000

The historic port of Charlestown is a berth for tall ships in Poldark. It has also been featured in many other films including the Three Musketeers and The Eagle Has Landed.

This unique detached home is just up the road from Charlestown in Fowey. Built circa 1900, this home is set in countryside with fabulous rural views and a mere 2 miles to the centre of the town. The kitchen has wide windows which make the most of the wonderful view. A little sprucing up and this could be the perfect country retreat.




Pentewan, St Austell. £335,000

Still within 5 miles of the beautiful Charlestown, is this Grade II listed three bedroom detached Georgian House. It is positioned on the outskirts of the highly sought after coastal village, Pentewan.

This well-proportioned home is finished with a dressed local stone exterior, small paned sash windows and natural slate roof. Internally there are a number of notable features, from the Oak entrance door leading into the main living room with two open fireplaces finished in exposed stone either end of the room.

The owners can enjoy a short walk to the village centre or the beach from this great location. There are beautiful coastal walks covering many miles, and the busy active fishing village of Mevagissey is only a mile further South while the Lost Gardens of Heligan are only two miles distant.



Church Street, Tywardreath, Par. £177,000

This three-bedroom, end of terrace period cottage on Church Street, situated in the heart of Tywardreath, is a great find for a first time buyer, not far from Polkerris or Polperro. The property consists of three bright and airy bedrooms, charming and cosy lounge with exposed brick feature fireplace and exposed wooden beams.

Close to the Eden Project, or Poldark’s Charlestown, this is a great location from which to explore and enjoy the Cornish coastline.



Are you looking to buy or sell in Cornwall? Find a Guild Agent to help you.

31Aug

If you work in the City but prefer to leave the bright lights of the capital behind as you leave the office, here are 10 of our top places to live outside of London and best of all, they're all within a 60 minute commute by train.

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Home to the Hellfire Caves, dug by hand in the 1700's, High Wycombe has plenty to offer including the National Trust's West Wycombe Park, showcasing 45 acres of landscaped beauty.

Commute time: 33 minutes to Marylebone
Average house price: £396,984



Leigh-on-Sea

With it's famous cockle sheds and excellent fish restaurants, Leigh-on-Sea is a picturesque town. The old town retains it's sense of history as a working fishing village. Hadleigh Country Park is home to 389 acres of marsh, sea wall and grassland and is a haven for birdwatchers.

Commute time: 47 minutes to Fenchurch St
Average house price: £337,757

Sevenoaks
A commuter town since 1862, Sevenoaks is home to 'The Vine', the cricket pitch on which the first-ever nationally reported cricket match was played, as well as numerous golf courses. There are beautiful walks to be taken in the North Downs Way and the Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve.

Commute time: 33 minutes to Charing Cross
Average house price: £598,770

Reading, Berkshire
38 miles west of London, Reading is popular with commuters for a wide variety of reasons, including the high number of Ofsted Rated Outstanding schools. Reading is a commuter hot spot itself due to the large number of big-name firms who operate there, including Microsoft and Ericsson. In addition to being home to one of the biggest summer music festivals, there are also a number of pretty canal-side walks for quieter days!

Commute time: 29 minutes to Paddington
Average house price: £403,288



Berkhamsted

Surrounded by some beautiful countryside, Berkhamsted is a prosperous old market town. With scenic towpath walks along the Grand Union canal and a thickly wooded common, it plays host to a number of local events including a monthly farmers market - a perfect slice of the countryside.

Commute time: 31 minutes into Euston
Average house price: £640,057

Milton Keynes
Housing is arranged in a grid pattern with a mix of everything from starter homes to retirement flats in each segment. The centre:mk offers an extensive shopping experience with big High Street names such as Joules, Cath Kidson and John Lewis all under one (enormous!) roof. There are many sporting opportunities in Milton Keynes including Xscape, home to the UK's biggest indoor real snow ski slopes and Willen Lake which is ideal for watersports.

Commute time: 35 minutes to Euston
Average house price: £274,288




St Albans, Hertfordshire
Deemed as one of the smartest places to live north of the city, St Albans has a mix of Georgian and Edwardian housing, beautifully mixed with 15th-century coaching inns and charming cottages. The Cathedral is a great space for enjoying some serentity after a long week at work.

Commute time: 19 minutes into St Pancras International
Average house price: £555,411

Gravesend, Kent
A maritime town, the economy of Gravesend has always been bound to the River Thames. Although a number of the traditional riverside industries have closed down, the Port of London Authority and Customs and Excise have their headquarters based here. The riverside part of town is rich in history with narrow streets and alleyways and historic fortifications.

Commute time: 52 minutes to Victoria
Average house price: £290,528

Chelmsford
Granted city status in 2012, Chelmsford is home to a large number of commuters largely due to the excellent schools. V Festival, one of the biggest summer music festivals, takes place every August and there's also plenty of shops, bars, cafes and pubs in the city centre. RHS Hyde Hall is a 360 acre estate and includes the Hilltop Garden, historic hedgerows and woodland.

Commute time: 34 minutes to Liverpool St
Average house price: £349,018    



Reigate, Surrey
With history dating back to the Battle of Hastings, Reigate is a market town, nestled at the foot of the North Downs. Home to a range of independent shops, there are also numerous restaurants. Priory Park has 200 acres of woodland and open space and has recently undergone major investment.

Commute time: 42 minutes to Victoria
Average house price: £563,398

*Commute times and season ticket costs as per www.commuterguide.co.uk
**Average house prices from www.zoopla.co.uk


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25Aug

Bake Off is back! Talented or not, baking is something everyone can enjoy – not every bake has to be a show stopper. From homely scones to delicate and sophisticated sugar work, these kitchens are a fantastic place to start your baking journey.

Bethersden, Ashford. £900,000


Built in a traditional style, The Woodlands is a newbuild situated in the popular village of Bethersden in the heart of Kent. The open plan kitchen and dining room is light and spacious – and the granite-topped island would be perfect for practising your star bake! The space is great for spreading out your utensils, but the island also allows you to carry on being part of the conversation or keep an eye on small children! There is an Aga as well as an oven and induction hob to meet your big-batch baking needs. The French doors leading out to the garden will keep the space light and cool.





Reading Street, Tenterden. £900,000

Brockett Farm is a detached country property in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This four-bedroom, 18th Century Kentish farmhouse has been the subject of meticulous improvement; the results are elegant yet practical.

The u-shaped kitchen surface would wrap any baker in an ideal preparing space. The kitchen, partially separated from the dining room with three beams, provides a great view of the garden as though you were in the actual tent at Welford Park! With triple-aspect patio doors, the light would also be ideal for any delicate decorative sugar work you might like to try. The fruits of your floury labour can then be enjoyed in the sun-drenched dining room, or outside on the patio with a cup of tea.





Brickendon, Hertfordshire. £900,000

Clementsbury, a four-bedroom Victorian family home, could be the ideal place to perfect your Victoria Sponge! Just two miles from the market town of Hertford this once Victorian Dairy Farm is full of charm and character. It has been cleverly restored and modernised and is now a romantic period home with high ceilings and original features.

The sleek, white kitchen is ideal for the modern baker - more Paul than Mary, perhaps. Sculpted cupcakes and bespoke biscuits would delight visitors as they lounge on the l-shaped sofa beneath the frosted windows.





Woking, Surrey. £500,000

This four-bedroom family home in Woking has been extended to the rear to add a fantastic kitchen/breakfast room. The galley-style kitchen is fitted with quartz work tops and splash backs which give a refined, natural stone feel.

There is plenty of light thanks to the rear and side-facing windows, and the well-placed down lighters keep your prep area light in the winter months when it’s time for crumbles and warm chocolate cakes. For those who simply cannot wait to enjoy what they’ve made, the breakfast bar is the ideal place to indulge straight from the oven!





Timsbury, Near Bath. £900,000

The Lodge, once the lodge house to the original Kingwell Hall, is a five-bedroom, 19th Century home nestled in about 2 acres of landscaped gardens. 

The star of this dual aspect kitchen is the stunning granite worktops – the colouring gives this room so much character. Cool and smooth, it’s great for rolling out fondant icing to top your Christmas cake! With the dining room just a couple of steps down from the kitchen, this home is perfect for a large family who love sharing their time over some delicious cake.






Tulsemere Road, London. £899,950

The kitchen is a real gem in this four-bedroom period terraced family house, situated on the borders of Dulwich. With windows to the rear and doors to the garden this space really lets the outside in.

The fitted kitchen includes a range of contemporary soft-close wall and floor units which will save the house listening to doors slamming when baker-temper strikes because the dough hasn’t risen as hoped! The granite work surfaces and the white brick-style tiling set off the charcoal walls above giving the kitchen a light, yet dramatic feel. The light wood flooring is a lovely finishing touch, and won’t show up a floury dusting!





Long Clawson, Melton Mowbray. £500,000

This four-bedroom home is a beautifully upgraded, detached period home where modern meets country in the neat, stylish kitchen.

The powder blue wooden cupboards are finished with traditional, black wrought-iron style handles which match the dark wood beams. The light coloured recycled work tops are deep, beautifully capping the pale blue units. The open shelving is a great place to display your sweet treat books for easy reference, as well as some key ingredients like flour and sugar. Thankfully, there is no need to despair at the quantity of post-bake washing up, as the basin has a beautiful view out of the wide window to the garden.





North Creake, Norfolk. £500,000

This is an impressive three-bedroom cottage just a few miles from chic Burnham Market in Norfolk. It’s packed with character yet full of modern features.

The bespoke kitchen is a lovely space. The pebble coloured units give a brilliant, clean look which are luxuriously topped off with solid oak worktops. The central island has a matching oak surface and offers a breakfast bar area. North Norfolk may well be studded with delicious places to eat, but this kitchen is begging to be a family run bakery with homemade pizza and cookie specialities. The French style doors to the rear open out onto the patio giving the room a cool breeze amidst the baking frenzy!






Langport, Somerset. £300,000

This natural Blue Lias stone home, just a mile from Langport, boasts a modern kitchen family room. With a bespoke fitted kitchen, cream-painted units and solid wood work surfaces the country feels very close in this Somerset home. The sea blue/green tiles give the room a restful feel and Mary Berry would feel at home with the porcelain tiled floor.

Given you are spoilt for choice in Somerset for places to indulge in Afternoon Tea, this home will offer its owners the perfect excuse for perfecting scones and smothering them in clotted cream and jam. Whether it is fruit or plain, this homely kitchen will be the ideal spot to enjoy baking.






Churchstanton, Somerset, £500,000

The spacious kitchen wraps around the family table in this four-bedroom home near Taunton. While there’s ample space to measure and weigh ingredients on the beautiful granite work surface, the current owner’s kitchen table creates a real focal point. Resting the bowl on the table while whipping up a bowl of frosting to top a carrot cake seems like the ideal way to spend an afternoon when Bake Off has inspired you.

This barn conversion is full of character and combines quality, space and style. Preserving original features and enhancing the home with superior modern fittings has worked a treat.






*All properties on sale at the time of publication


24Aug

The UK residential property market continues to confound the analysts, as sales and prices hold up relatively well in the first full month after the Brexit referendum.

The last four weeks saw a 1.2% (£3,600) fall in the average price of property marketed to £304,222 in August, according to Rightmove, whilst the biggest fall at 2.6% was in London.

However, Yorkshire and Humber and the West Midlands bucked the trend, with increases of 1.2% and 1.1%, respectively.
According to Land Registry, the volume for lending approvals for house purchases fell by 2.9% in June compared to May, but a word of caution is useful here: year on year increases viewed in isolation can be very misleading, as 2015 saw a post-election fillip to the market in the summer after a relatively poor first quarter. This year looked like a reversal, with the well-publicised stamp duty changes on second homes in April pulling many sales forward to ‘concertina’ buyer activity. Many experts predict that residential sales for this calendar year will be similar to last year, at between 1.0m and 1.1m properties, once again indicating a reasonably steady and predictable market.

Average days on the market before being declared ‘sold subject to contract’ rose slightly, with houses with four bedrooms or more taking 74 days, and three bedroom properties selling more quickly at 58 days - reflecting their being in relatively higher demand.
The reduction in asking prices may reflect a growing understanding amongst vendors that with an increasing number of properties now coming to market, more realistic price expectations may be required to attract quick offers.

It is also widely believed that the property market in the capital may already have been overheating before the vote, and this is therefore just a natural correction after several years of dramatic increases. The 15% depreciation in £ sterling should help attract overseas buyers to take advantage of significant potential savings compared to pre-referendum. Rents have also fallen in London as the number of available lettings properties rises (following the recent stamp duty changes).

There are currently a number of conflicting influences in play; many potential buyers are on holiday, and those that remain seem to be trying to drive harder bargains; yet the recent fall in interest rates should embolden potential buyers, especially with the availability of such attractive long-term fixed deals and the continued stability of house prices, albeit with slower annual increases.

We can also detect the undercurrent of an important ‘feel good’ factor, with Britain’s strong showing at the Olympics in Rio and a relative late summer heatwave. So far, pre Brexit forecasts of ‘doom and gloom’ have yet to materialise.

So the summary is that UK property investment remains relatively attractive for those that can access the necessary funds: if a little of recent sheen has come off, reducing its speculative allure, then this could be a good thing both for first time buyers and the economy as a whole.


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23Aug

Often, the number one priority for parents when moving home is proximity to good, local schools. However, there are other considerations such as sports facilities, woodland walks, cycle trails, museums, libraries, outdoor space, shopping facilities, health centres and crime rates to take into account too. Here are ten of the best family friendly places to live in England and Wales.



1. Winchester

The Sunday Times names Winchester as the best place to live in Britain 2016. The cathedral city was the inspiration for Keats 'Ode to Autumn' in 1819 and today boasts excellent schools, a strong community spirit and a wide range of festivals to appeal to the family buyer. The Cheese and Chilli Festival on 20th-21st August showcases the best of local and regional cheeses, chilli-based food and products from all over the world. The Graze festival takes place at the end of August and is a music, food and arts festival, perfect for all of the family. If poetry is more your thing, October brings a three-day celebration of inspiring poetry, including readings and workshops. Brush up on your history and heritage by visiting the City Museum, get close to the animals at Marwell Zoo or visit Winchester Cathedral which is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. For an enjoyable family day out, you could travel on a beautifully restored steam train through 10 miles of stunning Hampshire countryside.



2. North Norfolk
This part of the UK coast has something for everyone and boasts a number of fine sandy beaches. Sea Palling is a small, quiet family seaside resort and boasts a quiet, blue flag standard beach for little ones to safely paddle in. Holkham Bay is perhaps the most diverse and dramatic nature reserve in North Norfolk. Green pastures, marshes, creeks and windswept sand dunes will definitely tick all of the outdoors requirements and keep the children fit and healthy, running along the beach and breathing in the fresh sea air.




3. Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
"Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you!" said Willy Wonka in Roald Dahl's classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The same could be said of family life in Great Missenden as you explore the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre! You can also head out on your bicycles and explore the wide variety of cycle routes, including the Hampden Route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail which offers a shorter family route as well as a longer, signposted circular ride. Further afield is the Hell Fire Caves, dug out by hand in the 1750s. Head to the beautiful countryside estates of West Wycombe, Bradenham and Hughenden and explore the beech woods and bluebells with all of the family.

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4. Cardigan, Ceredigion

If you and your family love the outdoors, then Cardigan will go a long way to meeting your needs. Boat trips, kayaking, walks along the coastline admiring the beautiful scenery, visiting the numerous galleries, craft shops and heritage sites - there's something for everyone here. Crime rates are low and the community spirit is high so you can get to know your neighbours and their children too.

5. Wokingham, Berkshire
This historic market town in Berkshire has some of the lowest crime rates in the UK. Coupled with excellent schools, gaining higher than average GCSE scores and above average primary school performances, this could be the ideal spot to raise your family. It's just 33 miles from the attractions and cultural pleasures of London, but there are plenty of open spaces including Dinton Pastures Country Park and California Country Park, there are also several churches and an art gallery.



6. Oakham, Rutland
Oakham, a traditional English market town, is the current owner of the coveted Britain in Bloom award. It also has an all-important low crime rate. Founded in 1584, Oakham school is a highly regarded public school and is architecturally stunning. Rutland Water is close by and is set in over 4,000 acres of open countryside which is perfect for an adventure on foot or bike. Enjoy a number of water sports on the reservoir including sailing, canoeing and windsurfing or spend the day relaxing with a picnic whilst fishing for trout. Rockingham Castle is close by and you can spend the day exploring inside the Castle and the beautiful grounds.


7. Hampstead, North-west London
With one of the highest concentrations of schools in the country and excellent out of school facilities, Hampstead has something for everyone. Hampstead Heath is set between Hampstead Village and Highgate and is comprised of 791 acres of woodland, meadows, swimming ponds and playing fields. This, along with a multitude of shops, libraries, museums and restaurants, makes it a great place for all of the family.



8. Bristol
With a number of schools Ofsted rate as Outstanding, Bristol is one of the smaller UK cities boasting a rich history. Explore the SS Great Britain, a living museum of Brunel's iron steamship or view the city at the top of the Cabot Tower. Visit Bristol City Museum and Art Vallery and explore local archaeology, geology and even artwork by local boy, Banksy. The Clifton Suspension Bridge, spanning the Avon Gorge, is synonymous with Bristol; the family can experience the swaying of the bridge if you're feeling brave or simply take in the stunning scenery and wildlife. The annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is a must see!

9. Burscough, Lancashire
A thriving community lying north of Ormskirk and south of Rufford, Burscough has a very low crime rate. Burscough Priory Science College has attained specialist school status in Science, ideal for little geniuses! Walk or cycle the Leeds Liverpool canal and make the most of the beautiful views of the water, countryside, wildlife and narrow boats. The Burscough Wharf is a development in the heart of the town centre and features many arts, craft and hobby independent retail outlets. Burscough has a great history of agriculture and local restaurants and shops are full of the outstanding produce grown on farmlands nearby which makes living local a real appeal.



10. Cheadle, Staffordshire
Above average Key Stage 2 and 4 results combined with a very low crime rate makes Cheadle an attractive family friendly market town. There are many local running, football and cricket clubs for all ages in the family to enjoy. Nestled on the edge of the Staffordshire Peak District, Cheadle offers over 40 acres of landscaped lakes to explore making ideal pirate ship adventure territory! If yours is a thrill-seeking family, Cheadle is close to Alton Towers for a family day out.


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17Aug

If you're planning a stay-cation this year, or even a romantic trip for two, you're spoilt for choice here in Britain. There is an abundence of beautiful villages to relax and unwind in; you can take in the delights of chocolate box villages or head to the coast and revel in the salty air and astounding scenery.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

Tucked away in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Castle Combe is a quintessentially English village, often referred to as 'the prettiest village in England'. This little gem is famous for it's many big screen appearances including Stardust and War Horse and the streets are lined with honey coloured stone wall cottages. Nestled within Castle Combe is S Andrew's church, home to one of the oldest working clocks in the country.



Bourton-On-The-Water, Gloucestershire

Often described as the 'Little Venice' of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is home to the River Windrush which runs through the centre of the village. A number of pretty little bridges straddle the river and the village is rich in history with origins dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. There is much to see including the Birdland Park and Gardens with a huge variety of exotic birds and the nature reserve is home to natural meadows and wildflowers.



Polperro, Cornwall

Just south of Looe, packed tightly into a steep valley on either side of the River Pol, Polperro is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall. However despite the number of visitors, it's still an unspoilt fishing village and retains its sense of history. Explore Polperro's traffic-free, narrow, winding streets which offer beautiful views of the picturesque harbour at every turn. Learn all about Polperro's colourful past at the Heritage Museum of Fishing and Smuggling and sample the delicious seafood caught by the local fishermen.



Portmeirion, Gwynedd

Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion stands on a rugged cliff top on its own private peninsula overlooking Cardigan Bay, surrounded by sub-tropical woodland and miles of sandy beaches. Williams-Ellis was inspired by Italian architecture and the Central Piazza is the centrepiece of village with Riviera inspired buildings and gardens.  



Hawkshead, Cumbria

Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, Hawkshead is renowned for it's white washed cottages, archways and squares. Rich in history, the Old Grammar School was founded in 1585 and closed as a school in 1909 but is open to visitors today. The ground floor classroom retains some of the original desks which are covered in carvings by the students, which includes the poet William Wordsworth. Hawkshead was home to Beatrix Potter and the National Trust-owned gallery exhibits a selection of her drawings and illustrations which changes each year. Explore the beautiful surrounding valleys and Lakes and take in the breath-taking scenery



Cerne Abbas, Dorset

A charming village, world renowned for the Cerne Giant, a 180ft high ancient chalk figure carved into the steep sloping hillside above the village. Now owned by the National Trust, the origins of the giant are unknown but some believe that he is a Roman God or even a Pagan fertility symbol. There's more to the Cerne Valley than the Giant though, it's the birthplace of Thomas Hardy and the cottage where he wrote his early novels still stands.



Bray, Berkshire

Just a few miles upstream from Windsor, tucked into a bend of the River Thames, is the beautiful village of Bray. It's home to two of the best restaurants in Britain - Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck and the Roux brothers Waterside Inn. Further upstream and close to the marina, you can find some of the most beautiful properties, sometimes referred to as 'Millionaires Row'.



Saltaire, West Yorkshire

Named as a UNESCO World heritage Site, Saltaire is a Victorian model village located in Shipley. Named after philanthropist Sir Titus Salt, the small terraced cottages were home to the mill workers. The 1853 Gallery contains the largest collection of David Hockney works who was born and raised in the village and the United Reformed Church is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. The Lions of Saltaire carved from sandstone stand guard at each of the four corners of Victoria Square.



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Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire

Lying just south of Northampton, Stoke Bruerne is a beautiful canal village. Two and three storey brick built cottages line the banks of this stretch of the Grand Union Canal, whilst in the village itself, most of the properties are built from local, honey coloured stone. Visit the Stoke Bruerne Museum which is housed in a restored corn mill and details the life and times of the last 200 years of inland waterway history. There are scenic canal side walks and you can follow the towpath down past the seven locks to the Boat Inn where you can refresh yourself with a selection of traditional ales, ciders and wines.



Grasmere, Cumbria

Beautifully set between the tranquil waters of Grasmere Lake and the rugged heights of Helm Crag and Nab Scar, Grasmere is a stone built village, just north of Lake Windermere. William Wordsworth lived in the village and surely took inspiration from the surrounding scenery, indeed, he described the village church of St Oswald in his epic poem, The Excursion, and a simple tombstone in the churchyard marks his final resting place. There is plenty to do in and around Grasmere including the annual Grasmere Games. First held in 1852, the games take place every August and is one of the most popular events in the Lake District.



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15Aug

The games kicked off in Rio last weekend and so far, Team GB have racked up an impressive 6 medals in the pool and off the diving board. Fuelled and inspired by their aquatic achievements, who wouldn’t want to dip their toes into one of these ten pools?


1. Mellor, Lancashire £850,000

This three-bedroom detached farmhouse and barn conversion outside Blackburn in Mellor could be the perfect place get a few lengths in. Situated in over ten acres in a semi-rural setting, it is also close to the local pub.

The pool is nestled within the former barn and features the original barn door arched openings, with exposed stonework and timbers. There is a hot tub, small kitchen area, changing room with shower and restroom – perfect for keeping any pool parties contained!







2.East Harptree, Somerset £975,000


Positioned at the end of a private drive, Potters Yard is only 20 years old, despite looking like a well-established old rectory. Built using local materials of dressed stone and bath lime stone, this gothic property has real country grandeur.

A comfortable kitchen with Aga leads directly to the orangery and there is an impressive drawing room with bath stone fireplace.
To top this property off, the quaint outdoor swimming pool is begging to be unleashed!






3. Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham £2,650,000

This vast, Grade II listed ten-bedroom family home is in the Four Oaks Park Estate, which lies adjacent to the historic Sutton Park.
Designed by the well-known Birmingham Architect Mr Charles E Bateman and erected in 1904 by Isaac Langley of Tyburn, this property incorporates beautiful features including oak doors, decorative ceiling cornice, leaded light mullioned windows and gables hung with Colley Weston stone slates.

The heated swimming pool has a brick paved surround – and a slide for added entertainment! This pool is the crown in the landscaped, mature grounds and can be surveyed from the third bedroom which features a deep bay window, and a balcony.





4. Lymington, Hampshire £3,950,000

Eastwoods is perfect for someone seeking the outdoor life. There are 40 acres including paddocks, fields and woodland; this New Forest home has a real parkland feel. If you are craving some secluded splashing, this property has a great deal of privacy without feeling closed in; the pool and terrace overlooks the fields to the forest beyond rewarding any swimmer with a stunning view.

If your swimming is merely practise in the event of being thrown overboard, the close proximity to the historic sailing town of Lymington is the ideal chance to test your skills!






5. Poole, Dorset, £4,800,000

This Luscombe home merges the boundaries between the natural world and the man-made: western red cedar, zinc cladding and glass exude modernity, while Portland Stone is an expression of Dorset's timeless character. This home is an expression of individuality.

The property is bordered on one side by the lush woodland of the Luscombe Valley Nature Reserve, and is next door to a championship golf course, Parkstone, with 18 challenging holes over a beautiful mature heathland – ample outdoor space to satisfy your craving for coastal life.

As part of this remarkable home, there is an indoor pool, complete with a gym and sauna. There is a feel of clean, modern living around this space; its facilities enable you to look after and respect your body.







6.Purley, Surrey £2,999,950

This is an elegant neoclassical Georgian style home with eight bedrooms. Hidden behind a brick pillared entrance and electric gates, the grandeur of this property continues as you enter beneath the stone pillared portico, into a grand triple height reception hall with a sweeping stone and wrought iron staircase leading to galleried landing. 

This property has a surprising gem, discovered as you descend the stairs into the leisure complex, with heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room, shower room and restroom.

There is also a cinema room, designed around original 1920's Parisian cinema chairs offering a truly decadent evening’s entertainment.






7. Tavistock, Devon £435,000

West View is a stone built cottage in a small rural hamlet. The four-bedroom home has a large open plan living/dining room with a brick fireplace.

There is a fully enclosed pool area housing the heated pool with cover, a surrounding terrace with high rendered walls and lighting. A purpose built shed houses the pump, heater and filter. The views over the hills make this a lovely spot for an early morning swim.

The pool is just the start of your adventure activities with this property as Dartmoor offers plenty of walking, riding, cycling and canoeing opportunities.





8. Wadebridge, Cornwall £600,000

Mulberry House is a modern, detached four-bedroom home in Egloshayle. One mile from Wadebridge and adjacent to the beautiful River Camel, the future owners will be surrounded by water!

As well as keeping fit, the pool is ideally situated for summer BBQs with added splash for the whole family. Although if you fancy a mid-winter dip, you’ll soon be warmed up with a cup of tea made on the Aga; if that doesn’t do it, snuggling up in front of the stone-surround open fire in the triple aspect lounge should help!






9. Cobham, Surrey £6,950,000

You could be forgiven for forgetting you were in England in in this five-bedroom property in Surrey. The sitting room is a light, versatile space that leads to the rear terrace, with a wonderful vista onto the swimming pool and entertaining area – the outside space gives this property a touch of the Mediterranean, almost like visiting a luxury spa.

The irrigated gardens and grounds feature large areas of mature planting including specimen and ancient olive trees and well-stocked borders give a real sense of privacy and tranquillity. And, relax.






10. Poole, Dorset, £3,450,000

Welcome to Trafalgar! This modern home, with cutting edge technology could offer a whole new lifestyle. Set in a sun-lit glade, it is just five minutes from the shores of Poole Harbour and golden beaches of Sandbanks.

With its decadent New York hotel feel, the indoor pool’s alluring lighting begs you to plunge in; you can imagine feeling toned and sleek within just a few weeks! There is plenty of chance to show off your new athletic figure in the in-house disco – or, for the days when you’re feeling less svelte, there is also a cinema to enjoy. Even medal winning swimmers need some down time.






*All properties on sale at the time of publication

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12Aug

With increasing house prices, higher deposit requirements and stricter affordability tests, it is no surprise that First-Time Buyers are choosing to take their mortgages over a longer period of time.

Loans have traditionally been taken over 25 years, but figures have shown a significant rise in the number of young buyers who now choose to take a mortgage for longer. A 30-year term is fairly typical today, but borrowers are even stretching to 35 or 40 years, in a bid to keep their monthly repayments as affordable as possible.

Taking a repayment mortgage over a longer period of time will mean lower initial payments, and with lenders tightening up their affordability calculations over recent years, extending the mortgage term is the only way for some to get their foot onto the property ladder.

Before doing so however, it is important to understand the implications. Payments could be hundreds of pounds cheaper per month by extending the term of the mortgage, but taking a loan over 40 years could ultimately result in thousands of pounds in additional interest over the life of the mortgage.




A borrower’s age must also be taken into consideration. Maximum age caps vary between lenders, but most will require the mortgage to be repaid by 70 or 75, and borrowers will have to provide detailed proof that they have adequate income going into retirement, which can be difficult to provide. This means that the availability of 35 to 40 year mortgage terms is often limited to younger first or second time buyers.

In reality, most borrowers don’t keep the same mortgage for the whole term. When a fixed or variable period comes to an end, remortgaging presents the opportunity to review the term and perhaps shorten it if higher monthly payments are affordable. Securing a more competitive interest rate may even mean the term can be lowered without increasing payments.

Most lenders also allow borrowers to overpay, which is another chance to reduce the overall amount of interest paid. This can be done regularly or on a more ad-hoc basis if more flexibility is needed.


If you are considering a new mortgage and need mortgage advice, then please speak to the Guild Mortgage Service provided by fee free L&C Mortgages.

You can contact L&C mortgage on 0800 073 1945.

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08Aug


Buying a property could be the most expensive purchase we will make in our lifetime, so it's vital that we head into the deal fully prepared. A survey will identify the obvious faults but there are lots of things we can do to ensure we know exactly what we are paying for.

Here we take a look at some of the simple but effective tasks we can do to protect ourselves and head into the purchase forewarned and forearmed. Uncovering some of the potential issues is not only a useful negotiation tool but, in some cases, could be a deal breaker.

Appoint a surveyor
A survey could be considered as an investment at a time when it seems like money is flowing out of your bank account faster than it's coming in. If there are issues, you can use the survey results to negotiate on price if you wish to proceed, although in some cases it may be a deal breaker. There are two main types of survey you can opt for, either a homebuyers report or a full structural survey. A homebuyer report is suitable for most properties that appear to be in a reasonable condition, it is non-intrusive and therefore only identifies any surface level issues, including damp or subsidence. The report also offers advice on any necessary repairs and maintenance required.

For more unusual or period properties, it's a good idea to opt for a full structural survey. The surveyor is completely hands-on and will check everything. The report will include a list of defects and advice on repairs and maintenance and you can ask for a projection of anticipated costs and timings to make the required repairs.




View the property on different days at different times
Viewing the property at various times throughout the day and evening, during the week and at the weekend will give you a good idea of problems such as traffic flow and noise, the direction of the sun (which could be important if you'd prefer a sunny garden when you get home from work in the afternoon) and also any noise from your neighbours when they are more likely to be home. You can also gain an insight into any potential parking issues if you try to park outside of the property at differing times.

Look up!
When you're inside the property, look up and check the ceiling for any signs of leaks from the bathroom above or any damp or mould patches. The same applies when you're outside of the property too - look up, note the condition of the guttering, fascia, roof tiles and cement, chimney stack, brickwork and pointing.

Pound the pavements

Strolling the streets will give you a different perspective and is a great opportunity to take your time and really suss out the neighbourhood. Whilst you're walking, check the condition of properties and gardens in the surrounding vicinity. You can also time the school run and how long it will take to get to the nearest station if you plan to commute to work. Find out where the nearest convenience store is located and if there are any restaurants, pubs or parks nearby.




Use your eyes, ears and nose

When you're viewing the property, it's important to consider the noise levels inside and outside of the property. Are you near a school, main road, railway line or industrial estate? Listen for noise from neighbours, including those next to you, above you or below. Also, have a good sniff! If the property smells musty or mouldy, it could be an indication of damp. Check the walls and windows for signs of dampness, mould and condensation which could be a sign of poor insulation.





Get hands on

Flush the toilets and turn on the taps to check the water pressure and hot water which can indicate the condition of the boiler. Feel the radiators if the heating is on and check for cold spots. Close the doors behind you to make sure they shut properly as you go from room to room. Turn on the shower, check the water flow. Open and close the windows, use the locks. Don't be embarrassed, as identifying any problems in advance of the purchase could save you money at a later date.

Check the broadband quality

It's a deal-breaker for some, so check your mobile signal, make calls and access the internet at various points in and around the property. Take a tablet with you and ask the vendor if you can check the actual broadband speed through one of the tools available online. There are various websites available where you can check the potential available speeds of the area, so you can be prepared in advance of the viewing regarding how the broadband should perform.





Future-proof

If your current view is picture perfect, you can protect yourself from any nasty surprises by checking for planning applications on the Government's Planning Portal. It's easy to search by postcode and area and you'll be directed to any planning applications made within the search area specified.




Take the right tools
Always study the floor plans in advance of the viewing and take along a tape measure. Measure any large or bulky pieces of furniture you have in advance of the viewing and measure up when you're in the property to ensure that it will fit in.





Detective work

If you're concerned about crime levels, you can check online to view any recorded crimes in the area including burglary and anti-social behaviour and the outcomes.

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05Aug

There are many benefits to buying a property with a friend or family member and in some cases, it may be the only way of getting a first foot on to the property ladder. If your potential property-partner has a higher income and a clean credit history, it will go a long way towards securing you a great mortgage deal. Lenders reserve their best rates for those with sizeable deposits thus opening up a bigger choice of mortgages, so it is worth considering.

Here are some of the do's and don'ts to consider when buying a property with a friend or family member.

Have an open and honest conversation

Buying a property together is a huge commitment. You must have a frank discussion in advance of purchasing anything to agree on your medium and longer term plans. You should only progress with the financials when you are both comfortable with the terms. The conversation should include agreement on the ownership percentages, how any ongoing expenses will be apportioned and what happens when one co-owner wants to sell. If this isn't agreed in advance, you could end up living with someone you don't know or even dislike. Check each other's credit report, income and outgoings to ensure that the mortgage can be covered in the event of a reduction in income.



Appoint a Solicitor
Your Solicitor will advise you on the correct documentation required over and above the standard paperwork. This could include a declaration of trust which will detail the deposit put down by each party, what the percentage split will be should there be any profit after selling and on what basis the property is to be sold. Should there be a financial loss on the property when you come to sell, the declaration of trust can detail the amount which is to be contributed by each partner in this circumstance. It's also worth investing in life insurance which will cover you both in the event that one owner dies.




Decide on the type of ownership
Your solicitor can advise on the pro's and cons of the different options available to you. A Joint Tenant Agreement is where each party has equal ownership of the property and should one partner die, the property will legally pass to the other partner, regardless of what is stated in the deceased's will. A Tenants in Common Agreement will specify how much of the property each party owns and in the event of a death, their share in the property will go to the person specified in their will.

Agree on what type of property to buy
This will mainly be dictated by what finances are available but it's important to discuss up front what type of property you would like to purchase. You may consider a flat which is easy to sell onwards; a house with separate living and sleeping areas or a property which does not require significant investment to renovate or repair.

Arrange a Home Survey
At a time when you are paying out a large amount of money, it can be tempting to skimp on or even skip a home survey. However, it's much better to be aware of any issues in advance of your purchase which can assist you with your negotiations and you will both be aware of how much extra cash may be required to put things right when you move in.

Joint bank account

Set up a joint bank account from which the mortgage payments and bills will be paid. Agree on a date when the money will be paid in and ensure that there are enough funds available to cover the various bills which could be due at different times throughout the month.




Inventory of owned and shared items

Draw up a list of who owns what, it will save confusion when you come to move on. Make sure you keep it up to date as your house evolves into a home and you invest in new sofas and rugs.




Set some house rules
A friendship can be strained if there are disagreements over smoking, housework, pets or overnight guests. Discuss and agree in advance any 'house rules' which will impact on day to day living, you may find out that your friend has animal fur allergies which could put paid to your long-coveted plans of owning a cat or dog.




Bedrooms and living space

Unequal sized bedrooms or living areas can be a source of long-term resentment. When you are viewing a property with your property-partner, it's important to discuss who would occupy which bedroom, particularly if one is much bigger than the other or if there is an en-suite.





Shop around
It always pays to compare utility providers. It's a good idea to use some of the price comparison websites for an idea of what is available and ask friends and family for their advice too. You don't have to purchase home insurance with your mortgage provider (though they will probably talk you through what they have available) and make sure you cover yourself for contents insurance too.


So in summary, there are many advantages to buying a property with your friend or family member but there are also potential pitfalls. You can guard yourself against most issues by taking sensible precautions and only buy a property with someone who you know and trust implicitly.

Like this post? Read more here.

03Aug

Brexit is now over four weeks’ past, yet the residential property market is still searching for its mojo.


Since the historic vote, Theresa May was appointed PM ahead of expectations, England appointed a new football manager, and Andy Murray won Wimbledon - so some normality was resumed. However, the share prices for almost all of the leading estate agency groups fell dramatically, and Buy To Let continues to lick its wounds over changes to Stamp Duty and the forthcoming tax changes. So how do we read the runes and predict the next 12 -24 months’ ahead for UK homeowners?


Blow away the media froth, and the market (outside of London) actually looks steady and predictable. Prices are holding up, properties are selling (on average) for at least 99% of the asking price, withdrawals are no higher than pre-referendum, and mortgage rates continue to be the most competitive in history.


The capital is a different story: there were already some concerns in the Spring that prices were ‘overheating’ and a correction was inevitable. Brexit merely acted as a catalyst - with offers, prices achieved and completions all adversely affected at least in the short term. The London market has always fluctuated more than the rest of the UK as overseas and speculative investments help drive activity. However, recent sterling depreciation should help restore some confidence, as should the early political appointments and the conciliatory tone being adopted from Downing Street.


Looking at the macro-economic picture, there are strong reasons to believe that the residential market will remain healthy for the next few years:


Supply and demand
Despite rhetoric over reducing immigration, the UK population is still expected to grow by up to 50,000 per annum. The UK needs at least 200,000 new homes every year to cope with rising demand, amplified by the changes in trends and demographics (people living longer, more single-person households, less downsizing), but currently less than half of this number are being built. Increased uncertainty and a complicated planning system are unlikely to stimulate an acceleration in new build activity anytime soon, so prices should remain steady or more probably rise at up to 5% per annum.


Cost of borrowing

Interest rates are expected to remain below 2% for the next 18 months, and with 10 year fixed deals available at under 3%, there is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for homeowners to secure exceptional deals, reducing inherent risk. This also makes upsizing more attractive, especially if prices are expected to nudge upwards at faster rates than mortgage interest. Also, the domestic debt burden has reduced significantly since 2008 (the last housing crisis), helped by low interest rates, meaning households are better placed to survive any sudden shocks. The Banks / lenders have also been extensively ‘stress tested’ and seem better prepared than ever before to cope with any jolts to the system.

Government Strategy
We do not yet know the Housing Minister’s intentions, but the fact that Brandon Lewis is also Minister for London may give some hints. London’s population has grown by around 10% since 2010, and is predicted to grow another 1 million (14%) by 2024 as the city remains a prime focus for those seeking employment. As the political capital, it is also witnessing growing discontent from hard-pressed tenants and record ratios of residential prices to disposable income.


Therefore, we can expect better property options (sales and lettings) for Londoners to be a key focus for the new cabinet - and a dynamic capital economy will radiate out to the shires and the new commuting corridors, such as East Anglia and the Medway.


UK levels of home ownership continue to fall (now down to 64%, even lower in some northern cities such as Manchester now at 58%). This is actually a common long-term trend in most advanced countries (e.g. France, Germany) and, given limited public investment in social housing, should encourage the private rental market to fill the gap - so ‘Buy To Let’ and ‘Build To Let’ should start to flourish once again.


Longer term, the UK economy (and therefore the residential housing market) will depend on three main factors: GDP growth per capita (often called productivity), population growth, and levels of interest rates. Currently, the outlook for two of the three support renewed confidence in the UK residential property market.


Read more from Marcus on Brexit here.